(Anonymous author; an envelope psalm―it ends in exactly the same way as it begins―the subject matter enclosed or enveloped between the opening and closing words; “Praise ye the Lord” (Or, "Hallelujah").
Title: A Poem of Creation.
Theme: The majesty of God in creation.
- KJV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Although Psalm 105 is anonymous, it is generally thought that it was written after the return from Babylon. It is a historical psalm written to commemorate God’s goodness to His people and the faithfulness of His dealings, resembling in its general character Psalms 78:1-72. The opening passage is nearly identical with 1 Chronicles 16:8-22, and is thought to have been the original from which that passage was taken. This is sometimes called a "Hallelujah psalm," since it ends with the phrase “Praise Ye the Lord” (Heb. Hallelujah). The phrase “Praise ye the Lord” which closes Psalm 104, probably belongs as the opening note of Psalm 105, making it another envelope psalm, and tying it even closer to Psalm 106.
The first six verses are an exhortation to praise, and constitute the "introduction." The remainder is an account of God's mercies to Israel as a nation, traced historically from the time of the covenant with Abraham to the occupation of the land of Canaan.
Some Bible scholars think this was once a shorter psalm. Perhaps it started at verse 5. Then people made it longer. They put Isaiah 12:4 as a new beginning to the psalm. Then they put verses 3 and 4 to tell people to go to the house of the LORD. This house was the temple in Jerusalem. They believed that the LORD lived in it, when he was not in heaven (His home). Then the psalm started at verse 5, telling the people to remember their story. It started with Abraham, and ended (in this psalm) when they came to their own country.
Many Bible scholars believe this historical psalm was composed by King David [This commentary is based on the assumption that David was the author], for the first fifteen verses of it were used as a hymn at the carrying up of the ark from the house of Obededom, and we read in 1 Chronicles 16:7, "Then on that day David delivered first this psalm to thank the Lord, into the hand of Asaph and his brethren." Such a song was suitable for the occasion, for it describes the movements of the Lord's people and His guardian care over them in every place, and all this on account of the covenant of which the ark, was a symbol. Our last psalm sang the opening chapters of Genesis, and this takes up its closing chapters and conducts us into Exodus and Numbers.
The historical psalms (there are three of them which are quite long in the Hebrew hymnbook: Psalm 78; 105; 106) served a special service among the Hebrew people. Books were rare, expensive and beyond the reach of ordinary people. Hence, if history were to be remembered it must be remembered by rote(I.1) in the memories of the people. What better way to enshrine it than by turning it into verse and setting it to a tune. Think how much theology we have imbibed that way from our own hymnbooks. The Hebrews had thought of this years before. They set their history to music and here, in Psalm 105 and again in Psalm 106, we have a memorable example of this effective way to learn history.
We are now among the long Psalms, as at other times we have been among the short ones. These varying lengths of the sacred poems should teach us not to lay down any law either of brevity or wordiness in either prayer or praise. Short petitions and single verses of hymns are often the best for public occasions, but there are times when a whole night of wrestling or an entire day of psalm singing will not be too long. The Spirit is always free in His actions, and is not to be confined with, the rules of conventional correctness.
The first verses are full of joyful praise, and call upon the people to extol Jehovah, Ps 105:1-7; then the earliest days of the infant nation, are described, Psalm 105:8-15; the going into Egypt, Psalms 105:16-23, the coming forth from it with the Lord's outstretched arm, Ps 105:24-38, the journeying through the wilderness and the entrance into Canaan.
(I.1) Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it.
1 O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people. (comp. Psalms 106:1; Psalms 107:1; Psalms 111:1; Psalms 136:1; Psalms 138:1).
“O give thanks unto the Lord” - Say "thank-you!" to the LORD.
These [we will assume] are the words of David, which he said to either the singers, or to the whole congregation of Israel, the seed of Abraham, and children of Jacob. Psalm 105 stirs them up to praise and thankfulness for their blessings, temporal and spiritual; and for the Messiah, they had the hope and the glorious expectation of Him visiting them, characterized by bringing the ark home; for happiness created by Canaan's land given them to enjoy. Or, the psalmist desires to "confess or celebrate the Lord"; His greatness and goodness: His being and perfections; His sovereignty over all creatures. Confess Him as your Creator, Benefactor, covenant God and Father; or, "confess to the Lord" your sins and transgressions committed against Him, His great grace and kindness to you, and your unworthiness to receive any favor from Him.
Israel’s great mission in the world was to proclaim to the nations the faithfulness of the living God. The return from the Babylonian captivity could have provided Israel with a marvelous new chapter and a new text from which to tell the nations of the goodness and unfailing faithfulness of God. Little enough have the nations of the world learned to give thanks and praise to the true and living God.
“Call upon his name” - Tell (everybody) his name.
This phrase has been interpretated in several ways:
- “Call him by his name Jehovah,”e., ascribe to Him the attributes which that name represents, namely, eternity and self existence, together with that covenant relationship to His people, which though not indicated by the name was constantly associated with it, and therefore suggested by it.
- More literally, “Call Him by His name;” that is, address Him by His proper title; ascribe to Him the attributes which properly belong to Him; or, address Him in a proper manner, giving him the descriptive title most expressive of His divine perfections.
- “Call upon his Name”; e. call upon him with prayer and praise, "according to His historically manifested glory."
- “Call upon his name”; as may those who are thankful for what they have received from Him; these may and ought to call upon Him, or pray to Him, in
faith and intensity, with frequency and solemnity, in truth and sincerity; and at all times, especially in times of trouble.
- Some interpret it as “proclaim His name,” make it known to others; call upon them to serve and worship Him.
“Make known his deeds (or, "His doings") among the people[peoples]”; i.e. the heathen nations - Tell people in every country what He has done. (comp. Psalms 18:49; Psalms 57:9; Isaiah 12:4).
Tell what God has done in former times by His counsel, wisdom, power, and goodness; such as the works of creation and providence, and especially of grace, and salvation; and which were to be published among the Heathen, for the glory of His name: and indeed the Gospel, which is ordered to be preached to all nations, is nothing else than a declaration of what Father, Son, and Spirit, have done and will d for the people of God.
The allusion is to His acts in behalf of His people in delivering them from Egyptian bondage, and bringing them to the promised land. The word “people” here refers to the Hebrew people; and the exhortation is, that the knowledge of these deeds should be diffused among them and kept fresh in their memory. One of the ways of doing this was that proposed by the psalmist, to wit, by a psalm of praise - by recording and celebrating these acts in their devotions. One of the most effective modes of keeping up the knowledge of what God has done in our world is by songs of praise in worshipping assemblies.
In the psalmist day, the token return of a remnant of Jews to the promised land, to drive in their stakes and hold the land for the coming of the Messiah, was somewhat of a testimony to the world.
2 Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.
“Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him”: Sing to him, both with the mouth (voice) and with musical instruments.
The word used for “Sing psalms” denotes singing, while playing on an instrument as an accompaniment.
“Talk ye(2.1) of all his wondrous works” - Tell "of His miracles." Does anyone in the entire world have more of these to boast about than Christians do! Christianity abounds with miracles; and every part of the work of grace on the soul is a miracle. Genuine Christian converts may talk of miracles from morning to night; and they should talk about them, and recommend their miracle-working God and Savior to others.
(2.1) Talk ye—Either publish, as in Isaiah 53:8, or meditate, as the word often means; for meditation is speaking to one’s self. (Comp. Psalms 119:48; Psalms 119:78; Psalms 143:5
3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.
“Glory ye in his holy name” - Glory in the God whom you serve, as the only true God, and one of infinite power and goodness, and speak to others of His power and goodness. “That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let Him glory in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31). There is not a more conceited people under heaven than the Jews. Paul said this about Jewish Christians in Philippians 3:3: "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
“let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”
All others are forbidden to rejoice, Hosea 9:1, and bidden to weep and howl, according to James 5:1; “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.”
That seek the Lord; that seek his face or presence, as it follows, his acquaintance and favour, above all the world.
4 Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
“Seek the Lord” - Worship the One and only Supreme Being, as the only and all-sufficient good for the soul of man.
That should be the great goal of the nations: to return from their wondering and going astray in order to seek the Lord. This is what has always happened in times of revival. The tragedy is that no such national awakenings have ever been permanent. One can go from church to church today and see the same thing everywhere; (1) Church attendance is down (especially among young people), (2) there is little to nothing being done in the way of evangelism, (3) the Gospel is not being preached, (4) there is no active involvement in missions, etc. There is nothing happening today like the great revivals of the past. The psalmist prays for a great awakening and return to worshiping and serving God.
“And his strength” - Man is weak; and needs to be connected with the strong God so that he may be enabled to avoid evil and do good. Seek strength from Him; seek His strength and that it may be imparted to you; seek Him as a Being with almighty power; as One by whom you may be strengthened. The Septuagint and Vulgate render this, “Seek the Lord, and ‘be strengthened.‘” Strength comes from God, and it is only by His strength that we can be strong; only by our making use of His omnipotence in our own behalf that we can discharge the duties, and bear the trials of this life.
“Seek his face evermore” - His favor, His smiling upon us, His lifting up the light of His countenance, is synonymous with His favor. See Psalm 24:6; Psalm 27:8; Psalm 4:6. Seek reconciliation with Him. Do not live without a sense of His favor. Evermore - Let this be thy chief business. In and above all thy seeking, seek this.
5 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;
“Remember his marvellous works which he hath done,” and which has been variously interpreted :
- The works of
- The works of Providence done for the children of Israel.
- The works of grace done for His saints.
None of these are to be forgotten; especially the great work of redemption and salvation, which is suited to excite wonder. Call them to remembrance in your psalms; seek the aid of music and songs to impress the memory of them deeply on your hearts. All down its stately stanzas the words ring: “Thou shalt remember” or “beware lest ye forget.” Israel’s history has been one long record of forgetfulness. The psalmist hopes that this return from captivity will result in a quickening of memory so that never again will the people forget what it owes to the Lord.
“His wonders, and the judgments of his mouth.” The psalmist, by "wonders", means the miracles in Egypt, the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians (See Psalm 78:43, and Isaiah 8:18.). “And the judgments of his mouth” is the judgments which He pronounced on His enemies, and which were followed by their overthrow. The phrase may refer here, as it often does, to His statutes or commands, such as the laws and statutes given at Sinai: each of which were indeed to be remembered: but "his wonders" may take in all the wonderful things done in Egypt and in the wilderness, and in settling the Israelites in the land of Canaan; and "his judgments" may also mean the judgments which he threatened to bring upon the enemies of Israel, and which he did bring upon them as he said. The wonders of his grace, of his law and Gospel, his judgments and his testimonies, are not to be forgotten.
6 O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen.
The seed of Abraham and the children of Jacob are mentioned here; the former is called “His servant” and the latter “His chosen.” All you who are descendants of Abraham and Jacob; the former being particularly mentioned here because he was the great ancestor of the Hebrew people; the latter, because the events referred to were closely connected with the history of Jacob - with his going down into Egypt, and with the division of the tribes named after his sons. The word rendered “his chosen” would seem in our version to refer to Jacob. In the original, however, it is in the plural number, and must agree with the word rendered “children,” “Ye chosen sons of Jacob” (compare Psalm 105:43). So it has been translated in 1 Chronicles 16:13, “Ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones.”
“O ye seed of Abraham his servant”
These are the Israelites, who descended from Abraham, were his natural seed and offspring, and who had reason to give thanks unto the Lord and praise His name, since so many wonderful things had been done for them. However, all that were his natural seed were not the children of God; and such who have the same faith he had, and tread in the steps he did, are Christ's, and partakers of His grace; these are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise; and are under the greatest obligations to praise the Lord. Here Abraham is called His servant, as he is in Psalm 105:42, for he is a true worshipper of God.
“ye children of Jacob his chosen”
This is added to distinguish the persons intended from the other seed of Abraham; those in the line of Ishmael. It was Abraham’s seed in Isaac that was called, for they were the children of the promise who were born in the line of Jacob, and not in the line of Esau. Those from Jacob’s line were called Israel or Israelites, a people whom the Lord chose above all people on the face of the earth; for the word "chosen" may be connected with the children as well as with Jacob. The whole spiritual Israel of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, are Israelites indeed, the chosen of God, so they are bound to praise his name.
7 He is the LORD our God: his judgments are in all the earth.
He begins with the great Abrahamic covenant—the covenant which God drew up between Himself and the founding father of the Jewish race. He has drawn up no such contract with any other nation. The psalmist has four things to say about the Abrahamic covenant.
- How Sovereign God Is (105:7)
- How Sincere God Is (105:8)
- How Selective God Is (105:9-10)
- How Specific God Is (105:11)
“He is the LORD our God”
The one who entered into this unique relationship with the nation of Israel is “Jehovah our God,” the God of covenant and the God of creation, the One whose almighty power was so significantly celebrated in the previous psalm. When God entered into this treaty relationship with Israel He did so as a sovereign power. He was sovereign in making it.
He was not only the God whom we worship as the true God, but One who has revealed Himself to us as our God. We worship Him as God―as entitled to praise and adoration because He is the true God; we worship him also in order to sustain our relationship with Him, or because we recognize Him as our God, and because He has manifested himself to us as our God. He has condescended to enter into a covenant with us, and He has taken us for His own; therefore, He is our “Immanuel,” God with us, which increases the obligation to worship Him; it would be unreasonable and abominable for us to forsake Him, when the Gentiles submit to His law.
“his judgments are in all the earth”
More properly His judgments are “in all the land;” that is, in every part of the land He is honored as our God. His institutions are established here; His laws are obeyed here; His worship is celebrated here. No other God is worshipped here; everywhere He is acknowledged as the nation‘s God.
These verses begin the list of God's wonderful works on behalf of Israel by citing the blessed covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the patriarchs of the Chosen People. For the details of the covenant mentioned here, Genesis (Genesis 15; 21; 27) provides the details.
8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.
“He hath remembered his covenant for ever”
That is to say, God has had it constantly, or forever, or always in remembrance. Compare the notes at Luke 1:72. Though the covenant was made long since; though many generations of people have passed by; though great changes have occurred; though many calamities have come upon the nations, yet his ancient covenant and promise have never been forgotten. All his promises have been fulfilled; all ever will be. The “covenant” here referred to is that which was made with Abraham, and through him with the Hebrew people.
Covenant—See Genesis 17; Genesis 22:16-18; Genesis 26:3-5; and Genesis 28:13-15. This was the foundation of their national, and their church, life and character, and of all the promises of God to them as a people. Compare Galatians 3:16-17.
1 Chronicles 16:15 gives this advice, "Be ye mindful always of his covenant." God always remembers, though we many times forget.
the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.
The word which he commanded - The thing which he commanded; that is, all which he ordained and appointed.
Commanded—Established with authority, as Psalms 111:9. This habit of appealing to the perpetuity and validity of the ancient covenant, and later of the covenant with David, is a remarkable feature of the faith of the Hebrews. It was their firm anchorage in perils, and their lifeboat in the wreck of the nation during the Babylonian captivity. See Psalms 89:2-4; Psalms 89:18-37; Micah 7:20.
To a thousand generations - Very many generations; or, any number of generations: that is, always. The experience of the people through all the generations of their history has shown that in what He has promised and directed he is unchanging.
Imagine that! A thousand generations! From the time Israel was driven out of the land by the Romans until our own day when at long last they have begun to return is only about sixty generations. Israel has not even been a nation for a thousand generations. A thousand generations would take us back before the founding of America by Christopher Columbus, before the birth of Christ, before the conquests of Alexander, before the rise of the Persian empire, before the founding of the Hebrew monarchy, before the flood, before the beginning of the human race. A thousand generations! So sincere is God about keeping His treaty obligations with the nation of Israel that the divinely ordained pact is hewn out of the same stuff as eternity.
9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac;
Which covenant he made with Abraham,
Or made it known to him, and showed him what it contained; promised that He would be His God, that He would bless him; and that the Messiah would spring from His seed, and that all nations of the earth would be blessed by Him [“And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:” (Genesis 12:2; compare with this Luke 1:72.)]. This promise made to Abraham was renewed to Isaac and then to Jacob (v. 10). God was in covenant with Israel from the time of the forefathers, and that covenant was essentially a promise."
We know that the dedication of the first covenant was not without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:18; Exodus 24:3-8); nor could any Israelite remain within the covenant without frequent sacrifice (Exodus 12:2-47). Psalm 50:5 reads,⸺“Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” The idea here is that they are the acknowledged people of God; that they have entered into a solemn covenant-relationship with Him, or have bound themselves to Him in the most solemn manner; that they have done this in connection with the sacrifices which accompany their worship; that they have brought their sacrifices or bloody offerings as a pledge that they mean to be His, and will be His. Over these solemn sacrifices made to Him, they have bound themselves to be the Lord's.
“and his oath unto Isaac”
“And his oath unto Isaac” was for the purpose of confirming the promise made to Abraham. (See Genesis 26:2-5.) He made the oath known to Isaac which he swore to Abraham, and promised to perform it (Genesis 26:3).
10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
"And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law"
"That covenant was not only a promise, but a law." The divine treaty was narrowed down selectively and specifically to just one of the nations: Israel. Other nations came from Abraham’s fertile loins, such as the Edomite nation and the Arab nations, too—they have become rich and powerful in modern times. Palestine does not belong to the Arabs. It was deeded by God to Israel, and no votes of the United Nations Organization, no decision of the world powers, and no Arab rage is going to alter that.
"and to Israel for an everlasting covenant"
There is no limitation upon the duration of God's covenant with Israel. It is still in effect. Although the fleshly, or racial, Israel defected from the covenant, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the New Israel, the True Vine, the Good Shepherd, now lives forever at the right hand of God; and "in Christ" all of the ancient covenant with Abraham is still valid. "If ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29).
11 Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance:
“Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan”
What could be more specific than that? The psalmist relates how God decreed the provisions of the covenant, “Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan”⸺ to each of the above persons, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and to their posterity, the children of Israel. This doesn’t mean that the words that follow are expressive of the covenant, for that is expressed by PSALM 105:7. The main article, sum, and substance of it, is this, that the Lord was their God; but it only signifies that this earthly promise was pronounced when that everlasting covenant was given (See Genesis 17:7.).
“the lot of your inheritance”
Here the land of Canaan is called "the lot of your inheritance", for it was divided and distributed by lot to the children of Israel, who each received their proper share and portion (Joshua 14:11). Likewise, heaven is an inheritance, not purchased, nor acquired, but bequeathed by the will of God; it comes through the death of the Christ, belongs only to children, and is, as inheritances are, for ever.
12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
The Lord gives water from below, which waters the ravines of the Negev (10-12), and He gives the rains from above, which water the plains of Israel with their cultivated fields (13-15). God provides everything humanity needs in the process of caring for the earth.
15 And wine[h] that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
16 The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies[g].
Then the psalmist deals with God’s provision of rain, which watered the mountains and the valleys. (13, 14) From His roof chambers God waters the mountains; from the clouds, His storehouses of moisture; He saturates the earth. The hills that are not watered by the rivers, as Egypt was by the Nile, are watered by the rain from heaven, which is called the river of God.
“And wine[h] that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart” (15). And now we see how all of this makes the earth yield grass for grazing animals and food for man (13, 14). He brings out of the earth the vines which yield wine. And God provides not merely for man’s necessities, but also, touches his life with beauty—so it seems to the psalmist!—provides wine to ease his hard lot and oil for healing and perfume. “Oil to make his face to shine” may be an allusion to the custom of those times and places, which was upon solemn and festival occasions to anoint their faces with oil, so that they appear to shine with joy. In addition, oil was used to avoid intoxication, to improve the health, and to perfume the body. God sees to it that man has all he needs; and thus the Promised Land is said to have produced in abundance these three: wine, oil, and bread (Deuteronomy 8:8; 9:14[i]).
The fountains and streams give drink to the wild animals. And from among the rich foliage where the birds have built their nests we hear pouring forth the lovely songs of these glad beings that have experienced their Makers bountiful provision. The earth is satisfied (13); the trees are satisfied (16); all living things are satisfied (28).
Lebanon’s famed cedars, gigantic holy trees which are not planted by man as are fruit trees, but by God (see Numbers 24:6[i]), also get their fill. And this makes them in turn useful to the birds that nest in them and to the storks who build their nests in the treetops. And those lofty mountains, too high for the treading of human feet, provide refuge for the mountain goats and the rocks a home for the badgers. Here is a remarkable consciousness of the interrelatedness in God’s creation between inanimate life and the life of beasts, birds, and men. Let us see with the psalmist’s eyes as he describes God’s orderly provision.
Every time we experience a prolonged period of drought we are reminded once again of our total dependence on the providential goodness of God in sending us rain. Rain was frequently withheld from Israel in times of apostasy. The great prophet Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain for a period of three years and six months. It should make us humble to realize that we are necessarily dependent upon God for all the supports of this life (we live upon heavenly alms, for our own hands are not sufficient for us—our food comes up out of the earth, to remind us where we ourselves were taken from and where we must return,—and therefore we must not think that we can live by bread alone, for that will only feed the body, but must look into the word of God for the meat that endures to eternal life.
[g] “Conies” are marmots or rock-badgers. Some translate this word as “mountain mice.”
[h] Corn, oil, and wine were products of the land, commodities for which Palestine was famous. Wine, oil, and bread were basics in the life of the people in Biblical days. The wine was diluted with water and drunkenness was not acceptable (Judges 9:13 and Ecclesiastes 10:19. The word “wine” can indicate any form of the juice of the grape that might be made into a beverage.
[i] “As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the Lord hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.” (Numbers 24:6)
19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
On the fourth day God did not create the sun and moon; he simply said, “. . . Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years” (Genesis 1:14). The sun and moon are to regulate time here on this earth.
The sun blazes in the sky, and the psalmist thinks first of its faithfulness: “He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.” The sun’s companion pays tribute to God. He thinks how faithfully the sun sheds its light abroad, how faithfully the “moon” catches its beams and reflects them back to the earth. The moon is like a great clock calling out the periods of time, marking out the months, designating the sacred seasons (see Ecclesiastes 43:7, also Genesis 1:14), but in far wider order than this and with larger interest in mind God has taught moon and sun to serve both man and beast. Night belongs to the beasts.
From pole to pole, from sea to sea, from shore to shore, from “season” to “season” the world baths in the light of the “sun.” Day after day the sun “knoweth his going down.” It faithfully walks the path ordained for it by God. The heathen were so affected by the light and influence of the sun and moon, and their serviceableness to the earth, that they worshipped them as deities; and therefore the Scripture takes every opportunity to show that they are the creatures and servants of the true God.
The alternation of night and day provides a rhythm of life for both animals and men (19-23).
20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep[a] forth.
21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
This section combined with verse 19 corresponds to the fourth day of creation in Genesis 1:14-19. The work period of predators (the night) is contrasted with the work time of humans (the day).
“Thou makest darkness, and it is night . . . The sun ariseth. . .” The psalmist sees the “sun” departing and “darkness” comes. The night creatures emerge and the forests ring with the lion’s roar. The hungry roar of the young Lions is an unconscious prayer to God, and God provides the night for the beast to seek its food: for they are afraid to do so in the day, God having put the fear and dread of man on every beast of the earth (Genesis 9:2[j]). He sees the sun dawning and daylight comes. The nocturnal animals creep[k] away to their dens, and man arises from his bed and goes to work. To our psalmist the sun is no god but is itself taught of God.
We know much more about the sun today than the psalmist knew in his time. It is the source of this planet’s light and life. If it was only a little bit hotter it would scorch the earth and turn it into a vast desert. If it were only a little colder, it would allow the arctic to spread out from pole to equator and turn the earth into a giant ball of ice. Without the cycle of day and night and of the seasons, life would come to a halt. “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NKJV).
[j] “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.” (Genesis 9:2)
[k] “Creep” is a word that is common to all creatures that move without feet, and touch with their belly the element in which they move, whether they creep upon the earth or swim in the sea.
24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
This section (24, 25, 26) corresponds to the fifth day of creation in Genesis 1:20-23.
A summary statement: “O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all” speaks of God’s creation of “the earth” . . . the “sea” and the animals.
One of the striking features of this psalm is its emphasis on the continuing activity of God in nature. This truth is also taught elsewhere in the Scripture:
- “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17).
- “By Him all things consist (“exist and hold together”) (Colossians 1:17).
- “Upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
The Hebrew psalmist continuing, as if it were an afterthought, deals with the “sea.” He knows that it is great and expensive. He knows that it teems with “creeping” things and with sea monsters. Here, however, his language is vague and rests, not upon what his own experience as a landsman in southern Judah has taught him, but upon hearsay.
The psalmist is particularly impressed by the greatness of the sea. It extends so far and contains so much that moves; in it are countless living creatures, on it move ships and animals, all enhancing the sense of wonder we should have toward God’s works.
26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
He speaks of the face of the deep: “There go the ships.” Perhaps he has seen the great Tarshish ships of the Phoenicians, vessels made by men to challenge the oceans themselves. Those ships were a source of amazement to the average Hebrew. They would watch their sails spread like wings and then get ever smaller until finally passing over the horizon. They envied the sailors that searched for other lands and the treasures of far away exotic places.
He speaks of the fearsomeness of the deep: “there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.” Perhaps he had seen the crocodiles of the Nile, only to be told by the mariners that out of the depths of the sea itself were sea monsters (perhaps dinosaurs) a thousand times more to be feared. One can almost sense the feeling of awe with which the Hebrew poet speaks of these things. If he were one of the later poets, he would think of the story of Jonah and the whale. The deep was a fearful place. Those mighty monsters, which lurked in its gloomy depths, where only at “play” in an environment his God had made expressly for them.
The only function that “Leviathan”[l], the famed dragon of the deep (here, probably a whale), serves is to be a plaything for God!
[l] “Leviathan”― the leviathan was the fearsome mythological monster of the deep (See Job 3:8) but here seems to represent an actual animal created by God. Even this powerful animal is merely God’s harmless pet playing in the ocean.
See Job 41 where the crocodile is referred to.
27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
This section (27-30) corresponds to the sixth day of creation in Genesis 1:24-31.
He speaks of the fortunes of the deep: “These wait all upon Thee . . . thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die.” The psalmist thinks of the continuing bounty of what we call nature and of the continuing balance of nature. Even death itself was part of the scheme of things, and over it all God rules in perfect wisdom, love, and power. “Hidest thy face” means to withdraw favor (psalm 13:1). By His “spirit,” or “breath,” or mere “word,” He giveth life.
“Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.” Here the psalmist is speaking of death⸺the inability to breathe is one of the signs of death, and after a time, through the process of decay the body becomes “dust” and returns to the earth, from which it came.
“Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.” In the ecological system of nature we see God continually at work. He did not just create the world and leave it to its fate. He is continually sustaining every part of His creation. His creative “breath,” His “Spirit,” enlivens it all. The wisdom that fashioned the world is never for a moment withdrawn from it. In Him all created live lives and moves and has its being. And this divine blend of animals and man expresses itself in timeliness as well as in orderliness. Every new life that emerges on this earth comes from God. The concept strikes at the very roots of the theory of evolution, which sees all earthly life as the end result of a random working of the forces of chance. “NONSENSE!” says the psalmist. ALL LIFE COMES FROM GOD, and He actively concerns Himself with what we call the ecology.
31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall breathe in his works.
The psalmist closes with a benediction to the Creator in which he prays that the ungodly might no longer spiritually pollute God’s universe (1 Co. 4:35). This prayer anticipates the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:22).
It is a bold statement. The psalmist is so impressed with the astonishing wonders of creation that he actually calls upon God to rejoice in what He Himself had done! He is carried away. It is almost as though he is afraid God might be robbed of some of the glory which is due Him. The psalmist, soaring on the wings of his emotions, borne on the awesome sight of the vastness of nature, urges God to take delight in that which has awed and delighted Him! God’s Sabbath rest has been broken; we live in a fallen world, the mark and taint of sin is everywhere, but it is still a marvelous, wonderful world.
The phrase “the LORD shall breathe in his works,” does not refer to the first creation, but rather, the continuous and repeated production of living creatures.
He now turns his thoughts to the purposes of God.
32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
A look, a touch (the earth trembles at His look; the mountains smoke at His touch; for He is a God of almighty power.) is enough to remind the earth of the awesome power of the Creator. It is as simple for God to consume the earth as it is to create it. And now that sin has raised its head in the universe that is exactly what He intends to do. He will detonate the heavens and the earth, consume them in a fiery holocaust, and then create new ones in which His perpetual purpose in glory will be maintained. Note: If we do not give Him the glory due to His name, He can quickly right Himself, and destroy us and HIS works.
33 I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
The psalmist indicates his love for the Lord by exclaiming that he “will sing unto Him as long as he lives.” The psalmist himself will “praise” him as Jehovah, the Creator, and as “my God,” a god in covenant with me, and this not now only, but as long as I live, and while “I have my being.” Because we have our being from God, and depend on Him for the support and continuance of it, as long as we live and have our being we must continue to praise God; and when we have no life, no being, on earth, we hope to have a better life and better being in a better world and there to be doing this work in a better manner and in better company.
34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
Most modern translations render “My meditation of him shall be sweet” as a prayer: “May these my thoughts please Him”; “Let my meditation be sweet to Him”; May “my meditation” please Him.” It is true that meditation about such a God is sweet to the soul. It is more important that our meditations are pleasing in His sight. God’s Word has the power to correct us. It will keep us in fellowship: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” (19:14). Who was David’s strength? Christ! Who was his Redeemer? Christ! He is also my strength and my Redeemer, and I pray that He’s yours too. He becomes that through the grace of God. What a wonderful prayer to pray every day! Such a prayer must bring joy to the heart of God. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (19:14).
The word “sweet” is usually rendered “pledge” or “surety” (security, guarantee, deposit, etc.) and carries the idea of a mortgage. The psalmist’s thoughts turn to certain eternal verities, with promises, pledges and guarantees for which God Himself has given surety. The thought of that is sweet. No wonder he can sing, even though the discordant note of sin still has to be faced.
35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.
“Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more.” There! He has come out with it at last. There is a discordant note in nature, and man is the cause of it⸺man and his sin. Sin is a personal thing, and it cannot be judged in its process without being judged in the person. It is man’s perverted will which has spoiled the whole thing. But that is only a temporary state of affairs, for God will one day put an end to that.
But as for those ungodly creatures who do not regard the works of the Lord, which is noted as a most grievous sin, and punished with a grievous sentence, like that given in Psalm 28:4-5[m]; nor give Him the glory due to His name, but dishonor God, and abuse his creatures, and thereby provoke God to destroy the earth, and the men and things which are upon it. It is my prayer for thine honor, and for the safeguard of all mankind, that those sinners who obstinately and resolutely continue in this practice of desiring and disobeying their Creator, may be taken out of this world, that they may no longer infect it, nor procure its total destruction. Or it may be a prediction delivered in the form of a suggestion, as it has been noted before in like cases. But thou, O my soul, come not into this wretched society, but employ thyself in this great work of blessing and praising God; and yet it is my desire and hope that others will follow my example.
“Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.” As it began, so this magnificent hymn ends: “Bless thou the LORD, O my soul.” The exhortation
“Praise ye the LORD” is the same as “Hallelujah.” Those who bless and praise the Lord desire to see the day when (1) sinful people have been abolished from the earth (Revelation 20:11-15), and (2) the curse of the earth is reversed (Revelation 22:3).
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth; and let the wicked be no more.
- Those that oppose the God of power, and fight against Him, will certainly be consumed; none can prosper that harden themselves against the Almighty.
- Those that rebel against the light of such convincing evidence of God’s being, and refuse to serve Him, whom all the creatures serve, will justly be consumed. Those that make the earth groan under the burden of their impieties deserve to be consumed out of it and that it should spew them out.
- Those that heartily desire to praise God themselves cannot keep from having a holy indignation at those that blaspheme and dishonor Him, and a holy satisfaction in the prospect of their destruction and the honor that God will get for himself.
[m] “Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve. Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again” (Psalm 28:4-5).